Oyster Aquaculture

Oyster farming also known as oyster aquaculture or mariculture, has the potential to provide numerous benefits including increased water filtration, additional habitat for fish and other estuarine species, and economic development opportunities for the coastal economy. Oyster aquaculture also has the potential to supplement wild harvest, helping to meet the demand for fresh, local seafood.

Strategic Efforts

To ensure this industry grows to a $100 Million dollar industry by 2030, a goal set by the state’s strategic mariculture plan the Federation is taking strategic efforts to advance the industry.

  • In 2018 the Federation convened a group of stakeholders that helped author the Strategic Mariculture Plan  for North Carolina
  • Recognizing that shellfish farms have the potential to contribute to marine debris concerns, the Federation worked with shellfish farmers and NOAA to develop a set of best management practices for shellfish farms.
  • To promote the industry and encourage new entrepreneurs, the Federation worked to develop a new loan program, Ramping Up Program to Help Oyster Farmers.
  • Recognizing the need for land-based distribution and processing support of aquacultured products, the Federation worked to develop a feasibility study to identify the specific needs and potential solutions, Building Mariculture Public Infrastructure
  • To promote tourism opportunities and encourage support for North Carolina’s shellfish farms and resources, the Federation partnered with the state, N.C. Shellfish Growers and North Carolina Sea Grant to develop the NC Oyster Trail.
  • The federation built a demonstration oyster lease at their Wanchese Office to allow people to see a working farm and learn more about the oyster aquaculture industry.

Did You Know?

  • As of 2021, oyster aquaculture was a $30 million industry in North Carolina. This is roughly $5 million in farmgate value. The Federation and partners have set a goal to build this industry to a $100 million industry by 2030. This is equivalent to $33 million in farmgate value.


  • Oyster farm size has a vast range spanning from ½ acre to 10 acres. A single farmer can run up to 50 acres of farm, in total.


  • There are oyster farms in NC that are located on submerged land claims which were granted by the King.


  • Thousand of acres of water in NC could be suitable for growing farmed and wild oysters. A small portion of this water, just a few hundred, could support one of the most vibrant aquaculture industries in the U.S. Think about that: no forests to be cleared; no marshes to be filled: billions of oysters that can grow and help clean our waters right now.